Washington DC, May 20: The United States military has said one of its vessels on Sunday transit nearby the disputed Scarborough Shoal which is claimed by China in the South China Sea, a move likely to trigger Beijing during a time of heightened tension between the world’s two largest economies.
A US military spokesperson told Reuters the American destroyer Preble had carried out the operation.
“Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Reef in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” said Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet.
According to Reuters news reports, the current transit marked the second such US military operation in the disputed South China Sea in the last month. The US navy chief has on Wednesday stated the freedom of navigation movement by warships in the disputed South China Sea drew a lot more attention to what they deserved.
The operation was the latest attempt by the US to counter what it sees as China’s efforts to limit the freedom of navigation through the strategic waterways, where some Southeast Asian navies, Japanese and Chinese operate.
China has been long claiming its sovereignty over the South China Sea and its unused 11 billion barrel of crude oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Various nations have criticized China, saying it is breaching their territory.
However, Beijing has increased its military activities and movement into the sea in recent years by conducting naval patrol and exercises.